Rule of Law, My ***

1Rule of Law, My *** (Part 1)

What supposedly separates the United States from impoverished and tyrannical hellholes elsewhere on Earth are things like property rights and due process.

Neither of which was in evidence this week in New York City…

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Apparently under New York city ordinance, individuals can claim “squatter’s rights” after living at a property for as little as 30 days.

This state of affairs is proving problematic for one Adele Andaloro — who inherited a house in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens after her parents died.

A few weeks ago, she began laying the groundwork to sell the place — only to realize squatters had moved in, going so far as to replace the entire front door and locks.

It seems Andaloro is far from alone in her plight.

New York attorney Alan Goldberg tells the New York Post that the number of such disputes has jumped 40-50% over the last four years — or as the Post puts it, “in the wake of COVID.”

Investigative reporter Dan Krauth of New York’s WABC-TV says he’s had “dozens of tips from viewers about this in just the past week.”

Krauth and a news crew accompanied Andaloro — deed in hand — as she went to the house in hopes of reclaiming it. Also on hand was a locksmith — to change the locks again.

“It’s not fair that I, as the homeowner, have to be going through this,” Andaloro told Krauth.

The door was unlocked and the locksmith went to work. Then one of the squatters showed up, outraged.

It’s at this point the story begins taking several dystopian turns.

“Following a flurry of 911 calls,” says a New York Post account, “responding cops told Andaloro she had to sort the saga out in housing court because it was considered a ‘landlord-tenant issue’.”

And then for changing the locks, Andaloro was arrested for “unlawful eviction.” She now faces a criminal court summons.

Yeah, so much for trying to sell the place. The courts are so severely backlogged, even city officials concede it takes as long as 20 months to resolve a typical case. That’s a helluva lot more than the 30 days in which squatters can effectively take possession.

“I’m really fearful,” Andaloro tells WABC, “that these people are going to get away with stealing my home.”

Perhaps you’re reading about this subversion of the rule of law and you’re writing it off as something that happens somewhere else — only in “blue hives,” not where you live. And maybe that’s the case. Still, we pass along the story as a cautionary tale.

Ditto for the following story, a follow-up to an ongoing saga. This one affects you no matter where you live. And while it might not seem related, it is…

2Rule of Law, My *** (Part 2)

It seems Western elites are tweaking their plans to confiscate $300 billion in assets owned by Russia’s central bank.

A brief recap of the history: Two days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Washington and Brussels froze those assets, seeing as they were denominated in dollars and euros.

As we’ve said from the start, it was a watershed moment: Leaders of every government in the world that’s not a U.S. ally realized if it can happen to the Russians, it can happen to us too. “Joe Biden crossed a critical red line,” said Paradigm’s macroeconomics authority Jim Rickards, “and the world will never be the same.”

The dollar’s share of global currency reserves plunged from 55% in 2021 to 47% in 2022. Scads of dollars previously held overseas started flooding back home, helping drive inflation to heights unseen in over 40 years.

But the power elite was undeterred. Late last year, politicos on both sides of the aisle in Washington started talking about not just freezing those $300 billion in assets but seizing them — and handing them to Ukraine.

Fortunately for you and me, European bankers are gun-shy about this reckless plan.

This week, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell dialed back the proposal: Instead of seizing the assets altogether, seize the interest payments those assets are collecting — about $3.3 billion worth annually.

But even that is running into resistance, according to sources cited by Reuters: “Some banks fear,” reports the newswire, “that they might later be held liable by Russia if they are involved in any transfer of money to Ukraine… The sources are also concerned that the proposals will lead to a wider erosion of trust in the Western banking system.

“The sources, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, said they were sharing their concerns with British and eurozone policymakers, flagging likely litigation when anti-Russian sanctions are eventually eased or lifted.”

One of those sources said seizing the interest payments would set a precedent for the “weaponization of foreign-held reserves and assets.”

In other words, it would tear down the rule of law. “Outright banditry and theft” is how it’s described by Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry.

Zakharova represents a tyrannical regime — but she’s not wrong.

It’s the rule of law that underpins whatever’s left of the prosperity we still enjoy in the “Western democracies.”

If the rule of law is under threat, your prosperity is under threat. That’s why we cover these sorts of topics in our virtual pages — along with outside-the-box investment ideas.

3Apple’s Business Model at Risk

The feds’ antitrust case against Apple could prove more damaging than their cases against Google, Amazon and Facebook.

On Monday we reminded you of how Apple transitioned years ago from a go-go growth company into a mature, dividend-paying stalwart. “Apple’s best growth days are now squarely in the rearview mirror,” said Paradigm income-investing specialist Zach Scheidt in 2015 — making it an ideal name for his flagship newsletter Lifetime Income Report.

By 2018, Zach pinpointed another crucial step in this evolution: “The company stopped counting its device sales,” he wrote, “because it wanted to focus on subscription services instead.”

It was the subscription model… things like Apple Pay, Apple Music and iCloud… and the subscription model’s tight integration with the iPhone… that powered Apple’s rise from the world’s first $1 trillion company to the world’s first $3 trillion company.

And all of that is under threat with the Justice Department’s suit against Apple. As The New York Times summarizes the feds’ case, “the company had violated antitrust laws with practices that were intended to keep customers reliant on their iPhones and less likely to switch to a competing device.”

So what does that mean for AAPL’s investment prospects now?

Well, AAPL is a “hold” in Lifetime Income Report — up 502% including dividends since Zach’s initial recommendation. (And that’s after a 13% pullback from its all-time high last December.)

“I'd like to get more clarity on the situation before adding any more capital to the name,” he tells me this morning.

“Frankly, it seems that in a free-market society, a company like AAPL that built an ecosystem, built a ‘store’ and charges people a commission to sell things in its store — should be able to reap the benefits of this innovation.

“Very few consumers claim they are being ‘hurt’ by AAPL — and the company has made tremendous progress in improving our productivity with all of the tools, access and information that come with a smartphone. (And yes, there are drawbacks too — as a dad, I'm concerned about my kids’ addiction to screens — and my own at times too!)”

In a just world, the feds wouldn’t be bringing this case. But it’s not a just world, and so Zach can’t in good conscience tell his readers to plow more money into AAPL at this time.

That said, if it takes a severe tumble from today’s $172 into the $120–140 range, “it could be a great opportunity to load up on shares of an iconic American company.”

Meanwhile, it’s a coin toss whether the major U.S. stock indexes end the week at all-time highs.

After notching record closes again yesterday, the averages are mixed today — the Dow down 0.4% at last check, the S&P 500 fractionally in the red and the Nasdaq fractionally in the green.

Precious metals are still licking their wounds after the whacking they got yesterday — gold at $2,168 and silver at $24.69. Copper has pulled back below $4 a pound; crude sits a little below $81. Bitcoin has pulled back below $64,000.

No economic numbers to speak of today: The next one that might be market-moving doesn’t come until a week from today with “core PCE” — the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation. (And the markets will be closed for Good Friday.)

4Just Another Day in the Nation’s Capital

In case you missed it…

Outrage PNW Tweet

Yeah, since that tweet overnight the House has passed a $1.2 trillion obscenity of a spending package — hours before yet another midnight deadline for a “partial government shutdown.” The vote was 286-134.

And with that, Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-Georgia) has filed a motion to remove Mike Johnson as House Speaker, less than six months after Kevin McCarthy got the heave-ho. LOL…

5Mailbag: Privacy and… a Dave Blog?

“A big, hearty thank you!” a reader writes after our Bullet No. 5 on Wednesday.

“I have been using Glassdoor for a handful of years, because I am another privacy hawk who has used the same handle on most of my netventures for the past two decades, and am careful to keep them separated from appearing on the same account.

“I never signed up for Google+ for exactly this reason; I gave evidence of clear, active, long-standing online presence (not in any one particular venue) and they refused my request to use my handle instead of my real name. Guess I wasn't an 'influencer' or something (why should they get special consideration anyways? I thought privacy was a universal right).

“Connecting my real name to my online handle could be a devastating revelation in the event of a privacy breach or unauthorized disclosure. Looks like Glassdoor's not bulletproof. (That's a metaphor - and an awful social commentary that I should have to clarify that.)”

“Dave, I wonder if you have ever thought of starting a blog?” a reader inquires.

“Perhaps you have enough on your plate already; however, I think you could make a genuine contribution. You are an all-’rounder, whereas most of the good journalists out there are specialists.

“Taibbi covers censorship. He is terrific, but that is pretty much all he covers. Greenwald is a bit broader, but for instance he does not do business news, energy policy, etc. Michael Tracey gets into whatever he is into at the moment, and pursues it. Mostly geopolitics and some national (elections, especially). Then there are lots of folks who do investment-related news.

“You are the old-fashioned type who could do a general news blog I think. It wouldn't need to be as clearly tied to investment decisions as your postings for Paradigm. Well, just a thought!!”

Dave responds: You’re entirely too kind, especially placing me in the company of people far more accomplished than I.

The reality is that between this daily e-letter and the work I do alongside Alan Knuckman on our premium trading advisory The Profit Wire, I’m tapped out. (And there’s another project on my plate later this spring that will entail some travel — much too soon to reveal any details yet.)

And unlike those guys you mention, I don’t even do any original reporting. Everything I do stands on the shoulders of others. I just have a knack for connecting the dots in ways others don’t always see. Or so I’m told.

Anyway, thanks for the praise: It keeps me going in the peculiar best-of-times, worst-of-times atmosphere that marks the present moment…

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3.125

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